Hellbound Staff Interrogations #19: Jonathan Smith

I met Jonathan Smith in early 2009 through Laura Wiebe and the first thing that came to mind when I read his first reviews was ‘why isn’t this guy already writing for other people?’ A scholar by day and major metal fan by night, Jonathan has been covering a lot of the more esoteric and exotic releases for Hellbound. Just back from a recent trip to Japan, check out that great photo of him with the Godzilla statue at Toho Studios directly below. Wow, am I jealous!

-Sean Palmerston

Name and Location:
Jonathan Smith, Hamilton, Ontario

How did you start writing for Hellbound?
I had been hoping to do some writing for Unrestrained! magazine in what would become its final months. Though I produced some sample reviews, they weren’t able to be used for anything until fellow Hellbound writer Laura Wiebe and I met Sean at a show and he told us he was starting up a new Canadian webzine and was looking for writers. He approved of my aging writing samples and I began writing regularly as soon as Hellbound launched.

What’s your favorite piece published during Hellbound’s two years?
I’m going to stretch the definition of “favourite piece” to include a few things. . .

I think one of my favourite pieces to date is still Tate Bengston’s interview with Fenriz from Darkthrone. I not only learned a lot about music and music history that I’d had little exposure to at that point, but Tate’s interesting and detailed questions really seemed to bring out Fenriz’s personality.

Other than that, I think Adam Wills’ photography is fantastic, and two of my favourite examples of his work is Alcest’s most recent show in Toronto and Type O Negative’s final show in Detroit on Halloween 2009.

I also love the distinctive and personality-infused review styles that both Natalie Zed and Ola Mazzuca bring to the site.

What are some of your best concert memories?
One of my favorite memories is of seeing Arch Enemy open for Iron Maiden in Quebec City in 2004. Before then I’d always been a fan of classic heavy metal and hard rock. However, having grown up in a small Eastern Canadian city, seeing Arch Enemy was the first time I was able to experience the energy and presence of extreme Scandinavian metal. It pretty much sealed my musical fate.

Another highlight for me is seeing Type O Negative in Detroit in 2009. The city and autumn season provided the perfect context in which to see one of my favourite bands for the first and presumably last time.

Finally, I won’t soon forget seeing Wolves in the Throne Room play in Hamilton in the spring of 2009. They toured with Krallice and A Storm of Light, and with such combined talent on the bill the show was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Black metal, death metal or grind?
Avant-garde, experimental, and “green” black metal in all its worldly and indigenous variations.

Person you’d like to interview but it hasn’t happened…
Like many others here I would’ve liked to interview Type O Negative’s Peter Steele.

In terms of artists who are still alive, I would jump at the chance to have a conversation with Alcest’s Neige. He seems like a very interesting fellow with unusual perspectives on metal.

I’d also like to sit down and talk with metal scholar Keith Kahn-Harris. His book Extreme Metal has been an inspiration for how I think about the genre and its various politics.

The most underrated metal album is:
I’ve always really enjoyed Lacuna Coil’s Karmacode. I admittedly haven’t loved the direction the band has taken since that album, but that’s their prerogative and the album itself is still one of my favourites.

You are suspended in limbo for eternity and can only listen to five metal albums on repeat. What are they?
You know this is a really difficult question, don’t you. . .?
Type O Negative – October Rust
Wolves in The Throne Room – Two Hunters
Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin
Ulver – Bergtatt
Alcest – Écailles de lune

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.